Delice Bette | May 19, 2023


In Greek mythology, Zeus is a deity sometimes referred to by the title “father of gods and men,” who rules over the gods of Olympus like a father over a family, so that even those who were not his natural children address him as such. He is the king of the gods and oversees the universe. He is the god of the sky and thunder and thus of energy. His attributes include the scepter and crown (as symbols of his power), the thunderbolt, the eagle, the bull and the oak. In addition to his Indo-European heritage, the classical “cloud-gatherer” Zeus also derived certain iconographic features from cultures of the ancient Near East, such as the scepter. Zeus was commonly depicted by Greek artists in two poses: standing, advancing with a thunderbolt raised in his right hand, and seated majestically.

Son of Cronus and Rhea, he was the youngest of their descendants. In most traditions he appears married to Hera (his sister and wife, whom he deceived as a bird to marry) although in the oracle of Dodona his wife was Dione, with whom according to the Iliad he is the father of Aphrodite. He is known for his numerous affairs and lovers, the fruit of which were many deities and heroes, including Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, Persephone, Dionysus, Perseus, Heracles, Helen, Minos, the Muses and nymphs like Echo. With Hera it is often said that Zeus fathered Ilithia, Ares, Ennius, Hebe and Hephaestus.

In Greek, the name of the god is Zeus in the nominative case and Διός god in the genitive. The oldest forms of the name are the Mycenaean di-we and di-wo, written in linear B. The word Zeus is related to god and to Jupiter (from Dyu-piter *Dyeu-, ‘light’ and piter, ‘pater, father’), and this, in turn, to brightness, daylight.

His equivalent in Roman mythology was Jupiter; in Etruscan mythology, Tinia; in Hinduism, Diaus Pitar; in Egyptian mythology, Amun; and in Canaanite mythology, Baal.

Panhellenic cults

The main center where the Greeks gathered to honor the king of their gods was Olympia. The quadrennial festival held there included the Olympic Games. There was also an altar dedicated to Zeus built not of stone, but of ash, from the remains accumulated over many centuries of animals sacrificed there in honor of the deity.

Apart from the major sanctuaries located between polis, there were no forms of Zeus worship shared by the entire Greek world. Most of the titles listed below, for example, could be found in certain Greek temples from Asia Minor to Sicily. Certain rituals were celebrated in the same way as well: sacrificing a white animal on a raised altar, to name one.


Zeus, poetically called with the vocative, Zeu pater (‘Zeus father’), is a continuation of *Di̯ēus, the Proto-Indo-European god of the daytime sky, also called *Di̯eus ph2tēr (‘Father Sky’).The god is known under this name in Vedic (comp. Dyaus

Role and epithets

Zeus played a dominant role, presiding over the Olympian pantheon of ancient Greece. He fathered many of the heroes with mortal women (see a list below) and appeared in many local cults. Although the Homeric “cloud-gatherer” was the god of sky and thunder like his Near Eastern counterparts, he was also the supreme cultural artifice. In some senses, he was for the Greeks the embodiment of their religious beliefs and the archetypal deity.

In addition to local epithets that simply designated the god doing something arbitrary in some particular place, the epithets or titles applied to Zeus emphasized different aspects of his great authority:

Local cults

In addition to the Panhellenic titles and concepts listed above, local cults maintained their own idiosyncratic ideas about the king of gods and men. Some of these are listed below:

Some traditions indicate that Zeus was born on Mount Lyceus in Arcadia, but most recognized Crete as the birthplace of Zeus. Minoan culture essentially contributed to the ancient Greek religion: “by a hundred channels the old civilization emptied into the new,” noted Will Durant, and the Cretan Zeus retained his youthful Minoan characteristics. The local son of the Great Mother, “a small and inferior deity who assumed the roles of son and consort,” whose Minoan name the Greeks Hellenized as Velcanos, was in due course assumed as an epithet by Zeus, as happened in many other places, and came to be venerated in Crete as Zeus Velcanos, the “Zeus-child,” often simply Kouros.

In Crete, Zeus was worshipped in a series of caves at Knossos, Ida and Palaicastro. In Hellenistic times a small sanctuary dedicated to Zeus Velcanos was founded at the site of Hagia Triada. Roughly contemporary coins from Festos show the form under which he was worshipped: a young man seated among the branches of a tree, with a rooster on his knees. On other Cretan coins, Velchanios is depicted as an eagle and together with a goddess celebrating a mystical marriage. Inscriptions at Gortina and Licto record a Velcania feast, showing that Velchanios was still widely venerated in Hellenistic Crete.

The stories of Minos and Epimenides suggest that these caves were once used for incubatory divination by kings and priests. The dramatic setting of Plato’s Laws is on the pilgrimage route to one of these sites, emphasizing the archaic knowledge of Crete. There Zeus was depicted in art as a long-haired youth rather than as a mature adult, and in hymns he was appealed to as ho megas kouros, ‘the great youth’. Ivory statuettes of the “divine child” were unearthed near the labyrinth of Knossos by Sir Arthur Evans. Together with the Curetes, a group of ecstatic armed dancers, Zeus presided over the rigorous military and athletic training and secret rites of Cretan paideia.

The myth of the death of the Cretan Zeus, located in several mountain sites although named only in a relatively late source, Callimachus, together with Antoninus Liberal’s claim that a fire was lit annually from the birth cave that the infant shared with a mythical swarm of bees, suggests that Velcanos had been an annual spirit of vegetation.

The Hellenistic writer Evemerus apparently proposed the theory that Zeus had actually been a great king of Crete and that his glory would have slowly transformed him after his death into a deity. The works of Evemerus have not been preserved, but Christian patristic writers took up the suggestion with enthusiasm.

In Greek Ἐλευθέριος, ‘Eleutherios’ or Ἐλευθερεύς, ‘Eleutheréus’, is one of the names given to Zeus, king of the Olympian gods in Greek mythology. He receives this name when alluding to his status as ‘liberator’ or ‘bringer of freedom’. The ancient Greeks have always placed great value on freedom and therefore associated this attribute with Zeus, who was also associated with Eros and Dionysus in some areas of Attica. In honor of this version of the god, a festival was held in several Greek cities called Eleutherias.

After the fall of the tyranny of Polycrates around 522 B.C., Samos was ruled by Meander, who had been the tyrant’s secretary. Marking a contrast to the previous regime, Meander instituted a cult of Zeus Eleutherius.

In the Agora of Athens a portico (stoa) dedicated to Zeus was built and named after Eleutherius because he was the “defender of the freedom and integrity of the people”. This portico, located next to the stoa Basileos, was begun around 425 B.C., and was completed around 410.

Lord Zeus After the Greek victory over the Persians in the battle of Platea in 479 B.C., the Spartan general and regent Pausanias performed a sacrifice to Zeus Eleutherius in the agora of the city of Platea. The text of an inscription of the third century B.C., found in 1971 by the Greek archaeologist Theodoros Spyropoulos near the walls of Platea, shows that about two centuries after the battle there existed in the city a cult to “Zeus Liberator and Concord of the Greeks”, as well as an athletic contest in honor of the “fighters against the barbarians for the freedom of the Greeks”.

In the city there was an altar consecrated to Zeus Eleutherius, and games known by that name were held every five years.

Likewise, in ancient Syracuse, a temple to Zeus Eleutherius was also built and consecrated in 465 BC.

The epithet Lyceus (Lykaios, ‘wolfish’) is assumed by Zeus only in connection with the archaic Lycea festivals on the slopes of Mount Lyceus, the highest peak in Arcadia. Zeus had only a formal relationship to the rituals and myths of this primitive rite of passage, with an ancient threat of cannibalism and the possibility of a transformation into a werewolf of the ephebes who participated. Near the ancient ash heap where the sacrifices were held was a forbidden enclosure where, supposedly, no shadow was ever cast. a certain clan would gather on the mountain to make a sacrifice every nine years to Zeus Lyceus, and mix a single piece of human entrails with those of the animal. It was said that whoever ate the human flesh was transformed into a wolf, and could only regain his original form if he did not eat human flesh again until the next nine-year cycle had ended. There were games related to the Lyceas, removed in the 4th century B.C. to the first urbanization of Arcadia, Megalopolis, where a main temple was dedicated to Zeus Lyceus.

Although etymology indicates that Zeus was originally a sky god, many Greek cities honored a local Zeus who lived underground, and who over time would end up being confused or assimilated with the figure of Hades. The Athenians and Sicilians worshipped Zeus Meiliquios, while other cities had Zeus Cthonius (‘terrestrial’), Catactonius (‘subway’) and Plusius (‘giver of wealth’). These deities could be depicted as serpents or in human form in art, or both together for emphasis. They also received offerings of black animal victims in sunken pits, as was done with chthonic deities such as Persephone and Demeter, and also with the heroes in their tombs. The Olympian gods, on the other hand, usually received sacrifices of white victims on raised altars.

In some cases, the cities were not entirely sure whether the daimon for whom they made the sacrifice was a hero or a subterranean Zeus. Hence the altar at Lebadea in Boeotia could correspond to the hero Trophonius or to Zeus Trophonius (‘the breeder’), depending on whether one consults Pausanias or Strabo. The hero Amphiaraus was worshipped as Zeus Amphiaraus at Oropo, in the border area between Boeotia and Attica, and the Spartans even had an altar to Zeus Agamemnon.

Oracles of Zeus

Although most oracles used to be dedicated to Apollo, heroes or various goddesses such as Themis, some oracular places were dedicated to Zeus.

The cult of Zeus at the Oracle of Dodona in Epirus, where there is evidence of religious activity from the 2nd millennium BC, had its center in a sacred oak tree. When the Odyssey was composed (about 750 B.C.), prophecies were performed by barefoot priests called Selloi, who lay on the ground and observed the rustling of leaves and branches. By the time Herodotus wrote about Dodona, priestesses called peleiades (‘doves’) had replaced these priests.

At Dodona the consort of Zeus was not Hera but the goddess Dione, whose name is the feminine form of “Zeus.” Her position as a titanide suggests according to some that she may have been a more powerful pre-Hellenic deity, and perhaps the original occupant of the oracle.

The oracle of Amon at the Siwa oasis in the western desert of Egypt was not within the boundaries of the Greek world before Alexander the Great, but it still had great influence on the Greeks during the archaic era: Herodotus mentions consultations with Zeus Amon in his account of the Medical Wars. Zeus Amon was especially honored in Sparta, where there was a temple dedicated to him at the time of the Peloponnesian War.

After Alexander made a foray into the desert to consult the oracle of Siwa, the character of the Libyan sibyl arose.

Zeus and the foreign gods

Zeus was identified with the Roman god Jupiter and was associated in the classical syncretic imagination (see interpretatio graeca) with some other gods, such as the Egyptian Amun and the Etruscan Tinia. Along with Dionysus, Zeus absorbed the role of the Phrygian chief god Sabatius into the syncretic deity known in Rome as Sabazius.

Some modern comparative mythologists align him with the Hindu Indra.

Worship at present

In the last years of the 20th century, the cult of Zeus and the Olympian gods found new followers in Greece, despite the firm opposition of the Orthodox Church. During the first two decades of the 21st century, “illicit” ceremonies were held in the temple of Hephaestus under the Acropolis. The classical religion is called Hellenism, and was recognized in 2017 officially by the Greek courts, is now allowed to use the ancient places of worship, just as the ceremonies of the new British Druids at Stonehenge are authorized.


Cronus fathered several children with Rhea: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon, but swallowed them as soon as they were born, for Gaea and Uranus had revealed to him that he was destined to be overthrown by his own son, just as he had dethroned his father. But when Zeus was about to be born, Rhea asked Gaea’s advice to devise a plan to save him, so that Cronus would have the just punishment for his acts against Uranus and against his own children. Rhea hid on the island of Crete, where she gave birth to Zeus. She then tricked Cronus by giving him a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he swallowed immediately without mistrust.


The most widespread tradition considers that he was raised on the island of Crete by Amalthea, who was a nymph or a goat, while the Curetes performed noisy dances with shields and spears to prevent Cronus from hearing the cries of the child. According to an account by Hyginus, Amalthea hung the cradle on a tree, so that it was suspended between the land, the sea and the sky, and was thus invisible to his father.

Other nymphs named Cinosura, Adrastea and Ida, Melyssa, daughter of King Melysseus and also the titaness Themis are also mentioned as Zeus’ wet nurses.

Zeus becomes king of the gods

After becoming an adult, Zeus forced Kronos to regurgitate first the stone (which he left with Python under the glens of Parnassus as a sign to mortal men, the Omphalos) and then his siblings in reverse order to the order in which he had swallowed them. In some versions, Metis gave Kronos an emetic to force him to vomit up the babies, and in others Zeus opened Kronos’ stomach. Zeus then freed Kronos’ siblings, the Hecatonchires and the Cyclops, from their dungeon in Tartarus and killed their guardian, Campe. As a token of thanks, the Cyclops gave him the thunder, lightning or lightning, which had previously been hidden by Gaea. In a war called the Titanomachy, Zeus and his brothers and sisters, together with the Hecatonchires and Cyclops, defeated Cronus and the other Titans, who were imprisoned in Tartarus, a damp, dreary, cold and foggy place in the deepest part of the Earth, where they were guarded by the Hecatonchires. Atlas, one of the Titans who fought against Zeus, was punished to hold the celestial vault.

After the battle with the Titans, Zeus divided the world with his older brothers, Poseidon and Hades, drawing lots: Zeus got the sky and the air, Poseidon the waters and Hades the world of the dead (the underworld). The ancient earth, Gaea, could not be reclaimed and came under the dominion of the three according to their abilities, which explains why Poseidon was the god of earthquakes and Hades claimed humans who died.

Gaea resented how Zeus had treated the Titans, because they were her children. Shortly after ascending the throne as king of the gods, Zeus had to fight with other sons of Gaea, the monsters Typhon and Echidna. Zeus defeated Typhon by trapping him under a mountain, but left Echidna and her children alive as a challenge for future heroes.

Zeus and Hera

Zeus was brother and husband of Hera, with whom he had Ares, Hebe and Hephaestus, although some sources say that Hera had Hephaestus alone. Some authors include Ilithia and Eris as his daughters. Zeus is famous for his conquests of many mortal women -among them Semele, Alcmene, Io, Europa and Leda- and nymphs, from whom the founders of many Hellenic dynasties were born. Olympic mythography even includes unions with the goddesses Leto, Demeter, Dione and Maya.

Many myths show a Hera very jealous of these amorous conquests, and a systematic enemy of all Zeus’ mistresses and of the children they had with him. For a time, a nymph named Echo had the job of distracting Hera from these affairs by talking to her incessantly. When Hera discovered the deception, she cursed Echo to utter only the words of others.

Hera is also depicted as deeply despising Ganymede, a Trojan boy whom Zeus brought to Olympus to be cupbearer to the gods, as well as her eromenon.


The so-called “abductions” of Zeus were not love affairs but mythical events that occurred in the local cults of water or forest nymphs, which were supplanted by the prevailing Olympian patrilineal order, causing a cultural, social and religious revolution, or at least a radical reform of ancient beliefs and a reinterpreted reading of established religious practices.

It is remarkable that none of these abductions involved the Olympian goddesses. Zeus used to beget with the nymph the eponymous progenitor of a line of kings that would survive into heroic or archaic historical epochs. In many cases Hera, the “jealous” goddess representing conservative religious traditions, took atrocious revenge on the disloyal “deserter”, who succumbed to the new order (see Io, etc.). When the abductee was human, her mother was always a nymph or demigoddess.


The Greek sculptor Phidias sculpted around 435 BC a 14 m high statue of Zeus. The statue was erected at Olympia and was perhaps the most famous statue of Ancient Greece, traditionally considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Phidias made the robe and ornaments of gold and carved the body in ivory.

In Neoplatonism, the relationship of Zeus to the other gods is interpreted as the Demiurge or Divine Mind. Specifically, within the Enneads of Plotinus and the Platonic Theology of Proclus.


  1. Zeus
  2. Zeus
  3. HESÍODO: Teogonía 36–52.
  4. Ilíada i.503–533.
  5. «Que Zeus es el rey del cielo es un dicho común a todos los hombres.» (PAUSANIAS: Descripción de Grecia ii.24.2.)
  6. Hay dos historias principales contradictorias: Hesíodo afirma en su Teogonía que «nació» de la espuma del mar después de que Cronos castrase a Urano, de forma que la hace hija de éste; pero Homero afirma en la Ilíada (libro V) que era hija de Zeus y Diones. De acuerdo con Platón (El banquete 180e) estas dos eran entidades completamente separadas: Afrodita Urania y Afrodita Pandemos.
  7. HAMILTON, Edith (1942, reed. 1998). Mythology. Nueva York: Back Bay Books. p. 467. ISBN 978-0-316-34114-1.  Véase “Mitología (libro)”.
  8. ^ Esiodo, Teogonia, v. 477.
  9. ^ Zeus, in American Heritage Dictionary. URL consultato il 3 luglio 2006 (archiviato dall’url originale il 13 gennaio 2007).
  10. ^ Demiraj 1997, pp.431-432.
  11. ^ Mann 1977, p.72.
  12. ^ a b RSKD / Κρόνος[*][[RSKD / Κρόνος (dictionary entry)|​]]  Verificați valoarea |titlelink= (ajutor)
  13. ^ a b РСКД/Rhea (în rusă), RSKD / Rhea[*][[RSKD / Rhea (dictionary entry)|​]]
  14. a b Zeus, [w:] Encyklopedia PWN [online] [dostęp 2018-02-20] .
  15. a b c Kubiak 2003 ↓, s. 134.
  16. a b c d Kubiak 2003 ↓, s. 62.
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